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African govts advised to invest in new farming technologies

The key to transforming African agriculture into an engine of economic growth that will have benefits far beyond the farming sector lies in investing in, and making new farming technologies accessible.

Such technologies include seeds to machinery to digital tools, according to Dr Denis T. Kyetere, the executive director of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)

Kyetere made the remarks during a panel session focusing on accelerating the growth, sustainability, and inclusivity of digital agricultural solutions during the 10th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) virtual Summit 2020 that ran from September 8-11, 2020, and hosted by the government of Rwanda.

The panel session explored ways towards increasing the overall sustainability of digital solutions for African agriculture, during the summit under the theme Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa.

Kyetere noted that as African farmers are beginning to innovate, increase productivity and drive progress across economies, challenges including drought & climate change, pest and diseases, low access to technologies, market failure and adulterated agro-inputs threaten gains already made by the farmers.

"We have developed and deployed a digital application - Market Information Support System for Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing (MISS CAMAP) that facilitates farmer access to e-extension services and markets, Agridrive App that supports access to mechanization services and Hello Tractor App which provides remote tracking of farm assets, preventing fraud and machine misuse," said Kyetere.

He noted that digital solutions can be deployed to enhance crop management, seed inspection, and seed certification processes with capabilities real-time data generated from the field will allow quick decision making, data management, and product traceability, and certification of seed for dispatch cross borders.

 
Kyetere added that the adoption of digital solutions in agricultural value chains and the potential for growth can help to increase smallholder yields by up to 70 percent and incomes by up to 40 percent.

"The uptake of these solutions is considered a game-changer in the transformation of African agriculture. For example, Hello Tractor App has served 22,500 farmers in Nigeria and Kenya and reports a 200% increase in customer yields," he said.

For these to achieve the intended objectives, he called for sound national strategies including the creation enabling policy and regulatory environment to support the adoption of digital solutions with regards to the affordability of mobile phones, connectivity, and internet access in rural areas.

"Agricultural transformation is within our reach. Our farmers can improve their productivity, increase their wealth and health, and continue the path of progress if they have access to the right mix of farming innovations including digital agricultural solution," he added.

The session panellists called for increased digital penetration in rural areas through the spread of mobile technology to play a transformative role in shifting food systems towards more sustainable and efficient practices.

"Time is ripe for digital solutions to accelerate agriculture development in Africa.  As in most other innovations, an enabling environment would be key to supporting private sector investment and allowing access to the solutions by those who need them," emphasised Kyetere.

Other speakers in the session included Joseph Mucheru, Kenya's cabinet secretary, ministry of information and communications, Paula Ingabire, Rwanda's minister of ICT and innovation, and Liam Condon, president, Bayer Crop Science.


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